François Ansermet, Pierre Magistretti

The Enigmas of Pleasure Between Psychoanalysis and Neurosciences Publication date : September 30, 2010

François Ansermet is a psychoanalyst, a professor of child psychiatry at the University of Lausanne and chief physician in the University’s Department for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Pierre Magistretti is a neurobiologist and the director of the University of Lausanne’s Centre for Psychiatric Neurosciences. He was formerly an associate professor at the Collège de France (2007-2008, International Chair).
Together, they are the authors of the influential À chacun son cerveau. Plasticité neuronale et inconscient (2004) and of Neuroscience et psychanalyse (2009).

When human beings have the choice between pleasure and displeasure, why do they generally opt for displeasure?
Could there be pleasure in displeasure, or satisfaction in dissatisfaction?
What happens to the homeostatic and self-regulatory mechanisms that guarantee somatic pleasure efficiently? Do they suddenly stop working at the psychic level?
And yet no other species seems to be as obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure as humankind.
So why trade pleasure for displeasure?
What is the source of an enigma that is no doubt characteristic of the human species?
What can it lead to?

• A fascinating exploration of some contemporary forms of malaise, individual and collective: destructiveness, fanaticism, violence, as well as boredom, depression, dependence on gadgets, hyperactivity and addictions.

• An examination from the contrasting angles of the neuroscience and psychoanalysis — two disciplines that despite their differences can offer a converging point of view on pleasure and displeasure, i.e. on the relation between soma and psyche.

• An appeal to reach beyond what determines us, beyond the limits we have set ourselves, and to incite us to construct ourselves in a renewed manner, by wagering on neuronal plasticity and trace associations.